Happy New Year from Yspaniola! As we usher in 2019, we’d like to reflect on our organization’s growth since its founding 10 years ago. During this time, many of our students have progressed from non-readers to academic role models who inspire younger children to emulate their dedication to reading. One of these students, Georgina, 14, has been working with Yspaniola since the inception of our Learning Center, which was then run out of a community home. Although our resources were limited, Georgina credits Yspaniola with sparking her interest in learning to read and write.
Now, over five years later, Georgina is one of our most advanced students and spends her free time reading for pleasure in our library. Her peers in Batey Libertad describe her as “obsessed with reading” because she is constantly giving book recommendations. Her favorite genres are historical nonfiction and biographies because they allow her to expand her knowledge of the past and other cultures. Recently, she has read Who was Martin Luther King Jr.? and Who was Cleopatra?. She brings the information she learns into the classroom and is able to actively participate in discussions about historical events and figures.
Georgina explained that reading helps her develop her mind. Beyond this, books allow her to navigate her emotions in a healthy way. “... When I read, it transports me to another world. Also, reading is a passion for me because when I read, I feel free, happy, [and] content, and sometimes I identify with the books. Also, I like to spend time [reading] when I have problems and I’m very angry because it helps me calm myself.” Georgina’s experiences illustrate that our library serves as an uplifting space for youth in the community.
Georgina also enjoys tutoring our younger students. She is a mentor in our Pequeños Lectores program and loves empowering other children from her community. Through this relationship, Georgina shares her love of books and the benefits of having an accessible library with her mentee, Yselene.
Georgina notes that teachers in the public school are not always able to cater to the needs of students who struggle with basic reading skills. During Pequeños Lectores sessions, mentees receive dedicated attention and encouragement from young people in their community. According to Georgina, this particularly helps those who aren’t fluent in Spanish to strengthen their understanding of the language and vocabulary. They feel comfortable with their mentors and are more easily able to overcome shyness and personal barriers to learning. She has learned that "you have to be patient with kids, [and] that more than anything, you have to treat them with care." Working with Yselene has been a reciprocal relationship: "The truth is when I teach other children, they are also teaching me." When asked about her favorite part of the program, Georgina answered that "the best part is teaching her to read because [Yspaniola] also taught me to read."